UFC 2010 Undisputed Review
Much like last year's game, this mixed martial arts fighter impresses inside the octagon but doesn't do nearly as well outside of it.
On paper, the new skill-deterioration system sounds like a great idea. After all, it makes sense that you'd lose skills you neglect to work on over time. The problem is simply that this idea hasn't been implemented or explained anywhere particularly well. To avoid letting your skills deteriorate, you must regularly spend at least one point on each and every one of them, at least until you reach the deterioration-proof ratings of 30, 50, and 70 that they'll never drop below. Exacerbating this issue is the fact that you can only earn skill points in sparring sessions, which leave a lot to be desired.
After a sparring session, skill points are awarded by using simple math that amounts to little more than subtracting the number of times you were hit from the number of times that your hits landed, rather than how effective you were as a fighter. Your sparring partner has no desire to be used as a punching bag, so if you try to fight the way you would normally, you might find that the number of points you earn isn't even close to the 16 that you need to invest one in each skill. The auto-sparring option forgoes the 90 seconds that you spend in the octagon if you choose to spar manually, but it awards you such a small number of skill points that it's not a good option. Your best bet, sadly, is to employ cheap tactics that make it very easy for you to land blows while being on the receiving end of very few. Use a simple takedown to get your partner on the floor, spam punches while he struggles, earn points for those punches and for his failed attempts to get back to his feet, and then repeat this sequence when he inevitably succeeds. It's not challenging and definitely not fun, but it's extremely effective.
Visits to other camps that you make when you want to add a new move to your arsenal are much more challenging, or at least some of them are. Depending on the type of move that you want to learn, you might be required to do something as simple as landing a number of two-hit combos or something as challenging as forcing a partner to submit multiple times in a short amount of time. Your progress carries over multiple sessions, so it's possible to spend two or three training weeks learning a move if you don't manage it in one. Just make sure you remember what you were learning and at which of the 27 camps you were learning it because there's no easy way to return when you're ready for your next lesson.
When you're not training or competing, it's generally because you're in need of rest, which--like just about everything else in Career mode--takes a full week. This includes media-related activities like making fight predictions and sparring in front of the press. The need to balance your conditioning with your fatigue level and to keep them as close to 100 and zero, respectively, on the week of your fight is a constant and realistic concern. Other stats to keep an eye on in Career mode include your popularity (as influenced by media activities, post-fight interviews, and the like), which has an impact on sponsorship deals, and your cred. Cred goes up after every fight (depending on the result and on which sponsor logos you adorn your shorts with) and unlocks gym upgrades and new sparring partners. These make your training more effective and raise the level caps on your physical attributes and skills. Despite the aforementioned problems, it's certainly easy to get sucked into UFC 2010's 12-year Career mode. You always feel like you're progressing, and while the weeks in between fights aren't much fun, the fights themselves are still great, and it's always very satisfying to win because you feel like your hard work has paid off.
Outside of Career mode, there are plenty of other, less time-consuming modes for both solo and multiplayer sessions. Title mode challenges you to defeat between eight and 12 opponents to claim the title belt in your chosen weight class. The unlockable Title Defense mode pits you against 12 opponents in five-round championship fights that you must win back-to-back without ever losing. Event mode lets you create and play through your own multifight events or download lineups for upcoming UFC events and play through them. Tournament mode supports custom knockout competitions for up to 16 players on one console. None of these modes do anything that's remarkable, but all are good ways to enjoy the great mixed martial arts combat.
If you're a fan of the UFC, you're sure to get a kick out of the other single-player mode as well. Ultimate Fights affords you an opportunity to relive or rewrite history in a number of classic fights (15 on the Xbox 360, 20 on the PlayStation 3) that date as far back as 2005's UFC 51. There are nine challenges to complete for each fighter, which include a good combination of easy (perform three successful takedowns) and reasonably difficult (win by rear naked choke in first round) objectives. Successful completion of these challenges provides one of a few different ways that you can earn credits to spend on additional customization options for your fighters, and it also unlocks highlight videos of the fights in question, which look great on the PS3 but are poorly compressed on the Xbox 360. Incidentally, the PS3 version also includes five full-length, high-definition UFC fights on the disc.
UFC 2010's online offering is sadly much the same as it was last year. More often than not, ranked and unranked exhibition matches suffer from noticeable lag, the quick-match option doesn't reliably connect you with opponents, and there's no support for tournaments, spectators, or any of the other neat options that you might hope to find in a modern fighting game. Other than the aforementioned option to download event cards, the only additions to this year's online offering are a medal system that recognizes and keeps a record of your online accomplishments and an online fight camp system that--outside of team leaderboards--does very little that's worthwhile. One of the more interesting features of online camps should be the training sessions where you pair up with another team member, but in practice, they're just pointless and frustrating. You don't always get credit for completing the very specific exercises that your presented with, playing as the trainer involves a lot of standing around and letting yourself get hit in the hope that you can gain a meaningless trainer level online, and even if you succeed as the trainee, your only reward is a miniscule amount of cred that's unlikely to have any impact on your fighter in Career mode.
Clearly, UFC 2010 Undisputed is a game with its fair share of problems. You shouldn't let that put you off, though, because this is also a game that brilliantly re-creates the mixed martial arts combat that has made the UFC so popular and that boasts a roster of more than 100 great-looking contemporary fighters (as well as three bonus classic fighters on the PS3). Last year's problems have mostly been addressed, new problems have been introduced, and the end result is a game that--much like its predecessor 12 months ago--is difficult to fault inside the octagon but falls short of expectations between fights.
Editor's Note: The preceding review previously contained erroneous information about the visibility of the new skill deterioration system in Career mode. GameSpot regrets the error.